Running can be great exercise, as long as you maintain social distancing — and avoid getting injured. Whether you're a long-distance runner extending your marathon training by a few extra months, or a first-timer trying to stay active, it's important to know your limits.
BIDMC's Chief of Podiatric Surgery John Giurini, DPM, shares some insight on avoiding common injuries and knowing when it's time to see a podiatrist.
Toe Injuries and Poorly Fitting Shoes
Toe injuries like "black toe" are caused when your toes hit the end of your shoe as you run, causing bleeding under your nail. Oftentimes, you can expect to lose your nail when this happens.
"Shoe fit is very important to prevent black toe," Giurini says. "Make sure your shoe is properly fitted — not too big or too small."
In addition to black toe, blisters can result from too much friction between your foot and your shoe. Again, proper shoe fit is an important prevention.
"Another technique to avoid blisters is to wear a thin sock with your regular sock over it. This way, friction is absorbed between the socks, not by your skin," he says.
Wear and Tear
Wear and tear injuries like plantar fasciitis — inflammation along the bottom of your foot that can cause intense heel pain — can result from overuse, foot structure or tight muscles. Plantar fasciitis can become chronic very quickly. Giurini recommends you understand your foot structure to determine if you may be prone to these kind of injuries.
"Have an evaluation by a specialist. Don't try to self-diagnose your foot type," he says. Special shoe inserts known as orthotic devices can help alleviate issues created by your foot structure. If you're planning to train for a long race or have had past foot problems, Giurini suggests getting an evaluation before you start running regularly to help prevent injuries before they happen.
And of course, be sure to stretch before and after you run, especially if you're an older runner.
If your foot or ankle hurts even when you're not running, it's possible you have a stress fracture. Stress fractures of the many bones in your feet often occur in newer runners who ramp up too quickly.
"Running uses different types of muscles than other exercises. You may have the overall stamina to handle a four- or five-mile run right away, but it's important to give yourself plenty of time to build up to that kind of distance to prevent foot injuries," he says.
Giurini recommends a first-time marathoner take at least six to eight months to train, building up by a half-mile or one mile each week. "It's also important to rest your body after long runs," he adds.
Even if you're doing everything else right, accidents happen. To reduce your chances for turning an ankle in a pothole or taking a bad fall, Giurini suggests you train on even, flat terrain that's well lit. Smooth trails are better than hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete.
When to See a Podiatrist — Virtually
Giurini suggests seeking medical care if you have:
- recurring black toe or blisters
- pain in your heel, arch, ankle or shin
- pain or swelling that does not go away with rest
BIDMC Podiatry is currently offering telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, so you can receive care from by phone or online video.